Background - Molecular imaging of thrombus within fissures of vulnerable atherosclerotic plaques requires sensitive detection of a robust thrombus-specific contrast agent. In this study, we report the development and characterization of a novel ligand-targeted paramagnetic molecular imaging agent with high avidity for fibrin and the potential to sensitively detect active vulnerable plaques. Methods and Results - The nanoparticles were formulated with 2.5 to 50 mol% Gd-DTPA-BOA, which corresponds to >50 000 Gd3+ atoms/particle. Paramagnetic nanoparticles were characterized in vitro and evaluated in vivo. In contradistinction to traditional blood-pool agents, T1 relaxation rate as a function of paramagnetic nanoparticle number was increased monotonically with Gd-DTPA concentration from 0.18 mL · s-1 · pmol-1 (10% Gd-DTPA nanoparticles) to 0.54 mL · s-1 · pmol-1 for the 40 mol% Gd-DTPA formulations. Fibrin clots targeted in vitro with paramagnetic nanoparticles presented a highly detectable, homogeneous T1-weighted contrast enhancement that improved with increasing gadolinium level (0, 2.5, and 20 mol% Gd). Higher-resolution scans and scanning electron microscopy revealed that the nanoparticles were present as a thin layer over the clot surface. In vivo contrast enhancement under open-circulation conditions was assessed in dogs. The contrast-to-noise ratio between the targeted clot (20 mol% Gd-DTPA nanoparticles) and blood was ≈118±21, and that between the targeted clot and the control clot was 131±37. Conclusions - These results suggest that molecular imaging of fibrin-targeted paramagnetic nanoparticles can provide sensitive detection and localization of fibrin and may allow early, direct identification of vulnerable plaques, leading to early therapeutic decisions.
- Contrast media
- Magnetic resonance imaging